Some Miami-Fort Lauderdale officials say they know one surefire way to ease traffic congestion: Let the roads get so miserable that some motorists give up.
Yes, they said that out loud — in public and to reporters — in a part of the country where the car is still very much king.
“Until you make it so painful that people want to come out of their cars, they’re not going to come out of their cars,” Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper quoted Anne Castro, chair of the Broward County Planning Council, as saying at a meeting last year. “We’re going to make them suffer first, and then we’re going to figure out ways to move them after that because they’re going to scream at us to help them move.”
Traffic, some south Florida planners say, can actually be good. The paper quoted Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, saying it signifies the hubbub of city life.
“A robust, healthy downtown is a sign of a healthy, vibrant economic community,” Uhren said. Cities “don’t want to say no to development because of traffic congestion.”
According to the Sun-Sentinel’s analysis, Miami-area officials are saying yes to plenty of development in already heavily-congested areas, regardless of the traffic consequences. In fact, the paper found, “Instead of fixing the [traffic] problem, government officials are deliberately adding to it in hopes we’ll all walk, ride the bus or take the train.”
It notes that south Florida cities are rapidly approving high-density development that will bring more vehicles, and the state doesn’t require localities to scrutinize the impacts on traffic before they approve new growth. Meanwhile, the paper says, some cities are narrowing roads to add bike lanes and widen sidewalks, all in hopes that it will convince more people to get out of their cars.
Local officials say they have plans in the works to help people take transit, walk and ride bicycles — and they’re asking voters to approve a one-cent hike in the state sales tax Tuesday 8 to raise money for expanding a planned streetcar line in downtown Fort Lauderdale and improving buses and pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
There are skeptics, particularly those who question how many Floridians will get out of their air-conditioned cars during much of the year’s hot, humid weather.
As Mike Long, vice chair of the Broward County Planning Council, told the paper, “Everyone’s going to ride a bike? Their helmets are going to be melting.”